Kids learn respect, physical fitness and self-defense at Junior Police Academy
August 1, 2011
Lisle, Illinois ~ Children attending the Summer Fun Day Camp at Benedictine University did more than make new friends and learn new games this summer.
They also learned respect, helping others, setting goals, community involvement, physical fitness and how to avoid becoming a victim of child predators.
Three days a week, day campers ages 6-12 attend the Junior Police Academy at Benedictine University. The academy is the brainchild of Benedictine Police Officer Lloyd Popp, who had served as a school resource officer in high schools and junior high schools for 20 years.
"He started this program last year as a superhero camp, and we sat down and we got the idea to do a police academy for kids," said Sgt. Paul Creekmore. "We saw where a police department in the past had done this once. But it never went anywhere."
Popp, in his alter-ego persona as Commander Baldilocks, drills his "troops" in such topics as respecting your parents and others, being mentors to those around you, helping your friends, gang awareness, and some basic laws, such as bicycle law.
Popp also covers basic criminal law dealing with like burglary and theft, and who kids should call if they encounter those types of situations. He also teaches the children basic self-defense and what to do if they are approached by someone they do not know who may try to harm them.
Each class is attended by between 30-35 children. In another setting, such a large group might lead to some disruptive behavior. But Popp and Creekmore, aka Sgt. Flat-Top, find that the youngsters are more receptive to the "police academy" atmosphere.
"The first year we did this as a superhero program, some of the kids took to it and some of the kids didn't," Creekmore said. "I think a lot of them were too mature for the superhero persona. They're all much more receptive to the program now because we have a different persona of authority."
The officers try to have different activities each day for the children to maintain their attention and interest. They also introduce the students to "Sophie," the department's K-9, and explain to them how the dog is trained in crime prevention and detection.
"We just developed a better way of keeping the kids' interest to get our message across," Creekmore said.
The officers even created a mascot to help the students remember some of the important lessons they have learned.
"Our mascot is actually a rooster, because every time the rooster crows it's a new day and the kids learn something new," Creekmore said. "And the acronym for Rooster is Respect, Objective, Oriented, Strength, Teamwork, Enthusiasm and being Respectful.
"We're very happy with how it's going and the kids seem to enjoy it," the sergeant added. "We plan on doing it every year we're here, if they'll keep having us."
Summer Fun Day Camp runs through August 12. For more information, go to http://www.ben.edu/community/camps/summerfun/index.cfm or call (630) 829-6088.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 53 undergraduate majors, 13 graduate and four doctorate programs. Benedictine University is ranked as a Top School in the Midwest (11th in Illinois) for Master's Universities, 12th in the Midwest (and sixth in Illinois) for Racial Diversity, and eighth in Illinois for Freshmen Retention for 2011 by U.S. News & World Report.